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Storms batter towns' snow removal budgets

A snowplow clears snow from Route 112 in

A snowplow clears snow from Route 112 in Medford Friday morning. (Jan. 21, 2011) Credit: James Carbone

Burning through snow budgets and scrambling to replenish supplies, some Long Island municipalities say this month's record-breaking snowfall may push them into the red.

"We're not going to have enough money," said Lori Baldassare, deputy highway superintendent in Brookhaven, which budgeted $3.2 million for snow this year.

For the second year in a row, she said, the town will likely issue a "snow note" - a separate bill to residents solely for the cost of snow removal. Last year, the town issued a snow note of $2.3 million. It cost the average homeowner about $18.

This year's note could be bigger, Baldassare said.

"We are praying for summer tomorrow," said Kevin Mulligan, the Long Beach public works commissioner. The city has ordered another 150 tons of salt, to be delivered today.

"We are reaching the limits of our budget," he said.

Nearly 35 inches of snow has fallen this month at Brookhaven National Laboratory; Long Island was blanketed with as many as 18.3 inches Wednesday and Thursday alone. And it's not yet February - historically the region's snowiest month.

Officials across Long Island said the heavy, wet snow has beaten up their snow removal equipment, breaking hydraulic hoses and clogging fuel filters.

"Plow blades are getting damaged and trucks are blowing transmissions and wrecking leaf springs," North Hempstead spokesman Collin Nash wrote in an e-mail. "We are scrambling to get those repairs done."

While some towns yesterday said they felt confident they could make it through the year, several said they had already more than spent half the year's allocation for snow removal.

Nash said the town had exceeded half its $900,000 budget.

The Town of Oyster Bay this year has spent $469,000 of its $1.8-million budget in overtime alone, Supervisor John Venditto said.

"I think this budget is going to be taken to the limit," he said.

Towns across the Island said they were replenishing dwindling stockpiles of salt and sand.

Hempstead has been receiving salt deliveries almost every day, town spokesman Michael Deery said. And Islip this week will order 4,000 tons of salt and 10,000 cubic yards of sand, town spokesman Kevin Bonner said.

Islip is in an envious position: It has spent less than a third of its $2.2-million snow budget, Bonner said.

Those who work 'round-the-clock to clear the streets said the heavy snowfall also has taken a personal toll.

"I'm beat," Riverhead highway Superintendent George Woodson said Thursday. "I worked for 36 hours, then I had to go home and shovel my own driveway."


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